2014-06-25 - Family
Quite recently, I have heard the phrase "treat them like family" several times. Its context was how we should be treating those around us, whether they are blood relatives or not, and generally I agree. There are mitigating factors, however, in how the phrase is used - factors that should be considered. For one thing, there is a big difference between how God sees family and how those of us in the flesh might experience family. God's word in Ephesians 1:4-6 gives a glimpse of His plan. "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." In the flesh, we can be disappointed in family.
Family should be many things, yet this is not what many people experience in their lives on Earth. There are many aspects of family as well, and all of them play a role in how people respond to what comes up in their time here. Balanced thinking is the key to many things making sense. When I was growing up, there was a good balance between right and wrong, and how rewards and punishments were handled. I learned many things, and knew I was loved. So many people do not experience this at all. But like any family, mine was not perfect, due to there being humans involved. My normal changed, as my parents went separate directions and began different lives. But long before that, there were differently-existing views of what normal family responses should be to others.
And my ideas are very likely not the same as yours, due to any number of variables in everyone's upbringing. There are large families, small families, kids that live with one parent or the other, and kids that have lost both their parents in various ways and live with different relatives entirely. Sometimes just one parent is gone, and so there are single parents. Some other kids may end up in foster care for many reasons, and very often step-parents come into the picture. There are habits and styles of living, too, that can help determine what someone thinks is normal. Some have lots of money and lose it; some have lots and realize loneliness prevails. Some have no money, and are struggling to put food on the table; some have to take care of their siblings while their parents work - or while they just aren't around any more, older kids work. Some people are spending their money trying to find happiness. Some people spend a lifetime working to get to a place of happiness, and then determine they might have missed out on it all by not making time for the people they left behind, while striving for success. Some end up in situations in which they have to put their kids up for adoption, and others discover they would like to adopt. Yet others find themselves consistently unable to please those they have admired their whole lives, and feel empty or just frustrated. Some kids become adults that were never given the opportunity to know basic principles - such as to working on their own if able - and cannot take care of themselves. Some have situations that require them to remain dependent and having someone taking care of them. Others never had relationships with family, and it wasn't their choice; someone decided for them.
There are so many combinations of circumstances that can determine what anyone believes is a normal way to respond to family. We have to remember not to put people in a category that suggests they should somehow know what God believes family is, without perhaps asking about their perspective as well. As an adult, I have seen how people's ideas of family are contrary to what God's word teaches, whether they were professed believers or not. For example, God expects the church body (which is specifically anyone who calls themselves part of the family of God, not a mass of people inside a building) to assist widows, for example, who do not have any other family support when losing a spouse (1 Timothy Chapter 5:3-8). I think it's clear that God has strong feelings about it, when verse eight in the Timothy chapter talks about how those who won't take of their own family are worse than unbelievers.
The one who doesn't know God may just not understand what is expected, but once we've gotten truth, we are expected to act on it. We aren't to be lazy and just go back to our old habits. (Matthew 25:26 KJV: " His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed." Hebrews 6:12 KJV: "That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.") We are to be productive for the Lord, and cannot do so if we never have to do so. The goal as adults is that when our parents (caregivers) teach us, we will know how to do basic things, to manage when they are not around to help us. There is nothing wrong with help, yet many cross the line to enabling people to remaining dependent, and this can also be keeping them from what it is that the Lord had in mind, when he made them in the first place.
Ultimately we want, as believers, to glorify God, and to teach others what we have learned about doing so, while continuing to dive into the word and learning more. We can be balanced in our thinking, when we trust Him to be the guide. We should not want to ignore or enable anyone, but give them the tools to be all God wants them to be here on Earth, for his glory in Heaven. ("For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God? 1Timothy 3:5 KJV") How's it going for you? Me? I am still a work in progress and putting my trust in the one who made me.
"Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God's grace." (2 Corinthians 1:12)
All scripture references are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise noted.